Destiny Amana, President, Nigerian Internet Group in this Special appearance interview of the TOP 20 CEOs revealed how he learnt how to use the internet through correspondence with the group while he was in the UK, and NIG’s plans to extend similar opportunity to youths. Excerpt.
What does Nigeria Internet Group [NIG] really do?
Before I returned to Nigeria I had a business in the UK and I registered .ng domain name and the NIG was being prepared as the one association that would manage .ng. So, from the UK, I was communicating with the .ng secretary and that’s over 10 years ago. And when I returned to Nigeria, I got to know a bit more about the Nigeria Internet Group. I was so excited. Why was I excited? I was excited because I found that most of the knowledge I have learnt about the internet technologies, web designing, hosting; are not things that I could learn in the university.
In fact, the university taught me how to think about programme, how to solve problems with the way I programme but I was not taught about the Internet and there is a difference. But the Nigeria Internet Group, I believe since that time and even till now, is one of the associations where like-minded people come together and share ideas in Nigeria. You know, one thing you’re going to find with the IT people is that they challenge one another on how best to programme and this brings about innovations. But most of the things I learnt, I have learnt it online. And somebody shared their knowledge. They didn’t hide anything. Now, the only place that I’ve seen that happening is in the NIG.
I was almost 30 years already when I returned to Nigeria and I was told that I still must observe my NYSC because I have done my first degree before 30. So, I wrote a letter to NIG for endorsement as a youth corper. I was posted to Ibadan and my special project was to actually give methods to youth corpers on the use of the internet as the most favourable source of income and it was only the NIG that would endorse something like that and also promote it. That was why staying with NIG. So, all the things come through. I have won NIG prizes few times as the most successful but I believe God allows you to wait for the right time and when the right time came, it is interesting
What really does the NIG do as a group?
NIG is a giant. Unfortunately, the previous Presidents have not been able to utilize NIG the way it is supposed to be utilized. Over the period of time there have been presidents and that was one of the reasons why many people didn’t even know about the NIG or have forgotten about it. Just recently I took the executive committee members to Abuja to visit the Board of Trustee members. We have the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission as BoT members. We have the DG of the NUC as a BoT member, DG of NITDA as a BoT member and we wanted to let them know that we might be down but not out.
Now, what does the NIG do? Well, it is an advocacy group on internet in the country. It was originally created when late Sanni Abacha wanted to ban the internet. There was a steering committee in the NCC. Olaore Igwe was our chairman and still our chairman at the moment. And the committee tried to convince late Abacha that the internet was not a tool you want to get rid of. It all culminated at the first AGM where we elected our first president, Mr. Jim Ovia.
We have other well-known few elected presidents. Another one is Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, the present SSG in Akwa Ibom State. After being president at NIG, he was elected ATCON’s president. He was the President when I was observing my compulsory NYSC. As the President, he created an initiative called ‘The Internet Initiative’. You would tend to find that most of our youths, when they finished from universities, they want to go and work in the oil companies, telecoms companies and or the banks.
The country is trying to build entrepreneurs but it is very hard to get loans and it is very hard to start a business. But if you understand how to use the Internet, you can run a billion dollar business from your bedroom if you understand how to run your business. There are people who have used the Internet to run business from their bedrooms and built houses in Banana Island. I don’t have to mention names. We all know them. And there many people who don’t know how to do that. I can’t think of any other association that can categorically help people to do various things on the internet.
Our first seminar this year is going to be on crypto-currency – understanding what Bitcoin and all these others things are all about. It is even in January before I became president, I wasn’t really sure what Bitcoin and others really do. I was thinking it was like the MMM and other Ponzi schemes. But when I started reading about these things, I was really excited. I thought this is something we should teach other people. We’ve also been talking about the mobile money. Almost everybody now use apps to perform banking.
All the banks now have banking apps and all those apps have an aspect of mobile money on them. I can tell you that till now I haven’t used the mobile money aspect of my app. I don’t know if up to 45 per cent of people using the mobile app have used the mobile money aspect of their mobile apps. So, we are getting the banks to come and talk about mobile money.
And then, there is E-finance. While now you could see those loan schemes with no collateral needed. Some of these companies are inviting prospects to visit their website and apply for loan up to N5 million. Could this be 419? How are they going to give us the money? No collateral is needed? Where are you going to meet with the people and ask all these questions?
It is at our conference of crypto-currency, E-finance and mobile money coming up hopefully in July. These are some of the things that the NIG is trying to do. Another thing we would want to do is about the IPO-J that I spoke about. IPO-J is the influence of job initiatives. There are people who have ideas of what to do on the Internet but they don’t have the capital and they don’t know if the ideas are even viable.
So, when we start the IPO-J institute, they can come and present their idea in the form of business proposals to business leaders who will vet the ideas. Are they economically sound? Are they profitable? Can they give jobs to Nigerians? NIG can support them with grant of a N1million for the project. A host of monitoring is given to them to make sure that the money is not mis-spent.
But it gives loans to SMEs that are interest oriented. We have a few success stories. IPO-J is something that has been helpful. It’s backed by the NCC, NITDA and Zenith Bank. So, it’s here to stay.
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